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Ofcom plans to block networks from locking mobile phones

The UK’s communications regulator has unveiled plans to stop the sale of phones that are incompatible with any network other than the one it was purchased from.

According to the official website, Ofcom notes that several major UK mobile phone networks, including BT, EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone, still sell mobile phones that can’t by default be used on other networks. The cost of getting a phone unlocked can be £10, or it can be a complicated process, both of which turn people away from switching networks and therefore makes the market less competitive. That’s why Ofcom have suggested banning networks from selling locked handsets to their customers.

Related: Best Phones

Alongside this ambitious plan were two further ideas that could improve services in favour of consumers. Firstly, Ofcom will aim to make it easier to switch your broadband provider by simply contacting the new supplier who will manage the switch, rather than contacting both the new network and your current broadband provider. This change will in particular affect customers of CityFibre, Gigaclear, Hypereroptic, and Virgin Media, none of which offer this service at the moment. This could be a very significant change, as Ofcom report that 43% of people decide against changing providers due to their worries about arranging the switch.

Another welcome change suggested by the regulator, is that the emergency services can be contacted for free, 24/7 via video calls to 999 using British Sign Language, thereby being far more accessible to deaf people.

Currently these plans have not been put into effect, but Ofcom has trumpeted the arrival of another policy in 2020. From February, broadband, TV, and phone customers will be notified when their initial contract is to come to an end and the provider must give offer them their best deals at the same time. Again, this is intended to promote greater competition in the industry – and we’re looking forward to this policy’s introduction in the near future.

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